top of page


Updated: Nov 25, 2022

By Rev. Joan Kessler

Luke 23:33 – 43

You probably didn’t know this. You likely didn’t have it circled on your calendar and you’ve come to church completely unaware. But today marks the end of the church’s liturgical year! It’s a bit like New Year’s Eve for Church geeks like me. And, we have a visual fireworks display on hand for the celebration as we share throughout today’s service some of the Hubble Space telescopic images from thousands of lightyears away!

This day is popularly known as Reign of Christ Sunday. But the experiences and ideas and images that are conjured by the notions of Jesus as Lord and King are rather archaic remnants of a bygone era. This problem of what do with a King is perhaps best illustrated in the parody of Monty Python’s quest for the Holy Grail…and I invite us now to watch this short clip.

We understand the tension in this clip. The peasants govern themselves as an autonomous collective and have copious meetings and make decisions together, while King Arthur believes his power comes from a divine providence and wields it accordingly. The working class is not interested nor impressed by Arthur’s show of power and might or the need for respect he seems to believe he is owed.

In 1925, Pope Pius XI was troubled by the alarming authoritarian power being exercised by dictators such as Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin. Concerned over the rise of nationalism across Europe and a weakening of church authority and influence, Pious introduced to the liturgical calendar Christ the King Sunday on the last Sunday before the beginning of Advent and a new church year. His hope was that by focusing on the kingship of Jesus, world leaders would shift from their oppressive regimes and ways of governing and align themselves more with the teachings of the Christ. Sadly, I don’t think this has worked very well.

Reign of Christ Sunday is often one that we pass over because celebrating a patriarchal image of Jesus wielding power over others is not something we identify with nor aspire to follow. It might even be offensive for many of us. Yet difficult theologies such as this that the church hangs on to are a challenge and an opportunity for us to really dig deep into our belief system. To once again consider the nature of God, and question what understanding of Jesus is appropriate for a day and age when we surrounded by hierarchies of power, of one group over another, whether it be white over black, straight over gay, privileged over poor. Reading through Luke’s gospel as we have done this past year, we remembered Jesus taking those on the margins of his society, the disregarded and the expendable, the losers we could say, moved to the centre and become winners with compassion and acceptance for who they were.

Many denominations have switched over to the more gender-neutral title, Reign of Christ. But this hasn’t completely solved the difficulty neither because there is still this aspect of subjugation, of hierarchies of power of one group over another. Christianity has used Jesus’ kingship to assert itself and patriarchal structures from its very beginning. Times have changed and we have changed in the ways we think about these matters. As progressive and liberal-minded Christians, we have questioned our understanding of a God who is “up there” and somewhere reigning over us in exchange for the shift in thinking that the presence of God is all around us and within us.

As we conclude Luke’s gospel this morning, we hear a story reserved for Good Friday and Christ’s Passion. But in this context of Reign of Christ Sunday, how do we view Jesus’ leadership and the monarchical systems he was part of as he exercised his ministry? This reading for me is full of paradox. The tension over Jesus’ “kingship” has come to a head. Before Pilate, Jesus was charged with three political crimes: perverting the nation, forbidding the payment of taxes to Caesar, and saying that he himself was the Messiah, a king. Finding nothing to charge him with, Pilate asked the people what he should do with Jesus. The crowds demanded crucifixion.

On the cross, we hear a last conversation Jesus has with the two criminals who were sentenced to death alongside him. And again, the debate over Jesus’ identity is in question. One demanded him to use some superpower if he was a king and get them all out of this mess. The other accepted his fate and acknowledged who Jesus was. “This man has done nothing wrong”. Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kin-dom.” And Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, this day, you will be with me in Paradise.”

Jesus was challenged his entire life by the title King. It put his life and that of his family in grave danger from the moment of his birth in a humble backwater stable. It followed him throughout adulthood and shaped his brief ministry and was why the religious authorities were always following Jesus, waiting for him to say and do subversive things that would anger Rome and enable them to arrest him and sentence him to death. It was not a role he asked for but one he assumed. Jesus spent his life demonstrating and teaching about the kin-dom…and he reminded his followers that it is not a particular time or some far removed place but rather the kin-dom of God is within you.

The Reign of Christ is not just about the life and work of the historical Jesus. It is even more than this; it is about the Paradise that Jesus spoke of in his dying moments. That cosmic entity that holds all humanity, all creatures, all geological formations and landscapes and ecosystems in a loving ordered partnership. The Cosmic Christ has its origins from before the beginning. Time does not limit nor suppress the Loving and Compassionate forces that are at work all around us. We are to care for this planet, our earthly home and continue to explore and learn of the things that lie beyond us. Because when we do, we become loving and compassionate creatures who live out creative energy, radical hospitality and care for our sacred universe that our earth is part of. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. It is really pretty simple.

I want to leave you with the words of a hymn I found this past week that I will read to you as a poem. For me it captures what I have attempted to do this morning, to remind us of the Cosmic Christ that knows no beginning and no end and is fulfilled not with power and might but with love and compassion towards one another. It is called How Miniscule This Planet, by Thomas H. Troeger:

How miniscule this planet

amidst the stars at night,

a mote that floats in vastness,

mere dust that catches light,

yet, God, you count of value,

of boundless, precious worth,

all creatures who inhabit

this tiny mite-sized earth.

Together faith and science

extend what we can see

and amplify our wonder

at all you bring to be

how energy and matter

have coalesced in space

as consciousness and meaning

and hearts that yearn for grace.

And from that wonder blossoms

a wonder that exceeds

the reach of human dreaming

for meeting earth’s deep needs:

the Christ, in whom all matter,

all energies cohere,

is born upon this planet

and dwelling with us here.

By Christ we are connected

to every shining star

to every atom spinning,

to all the things that are,

and to your very being,

around, below, above,

suffusing each dimension

with light and life and love.

Amen and Amen.

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page